How can the effects of these practices and dispositions be characterized? Did they have unintended consequences? What was the effectiveness of these practices, their costs, and their perceived value; likewise the relationship between these practices and broader ideals about particular offices? If the requirements of accountability provided some practical definition of the contours of office, manorial manuals, podesta literature, and the ideal prelates of ecclesiastical treatises (for example) still had a non-trivial influence. Finally, since accountability is so frequently, if arguably, associated with the creation of justice, the book closes by reflecting on their relation in the light of the material analysed here.

Unintended Consequences

Forms of accountability can have unexpected sources, their causes unintended consequences. Take a different arena to that of this study, parliamentary accountability. The growing dynamism of the English parliament between 1189 and 1225 was, it has been convincingly argued, the consequence of an absentee or weak crown’s need to implicate a credible political community in securing taxation.[1] In the more modest fora discussed here, inquiries established for royal purposes could be turned to communal ends.[2] Writ large, this could be seen as a general effect of the increased accountability in the period considered here. Before, there were fewer spheres providing a secure space in which the weaker could complain of the stronger; afterwards there were more. This seems circular in part since, as it was argued above, the growing complexity of methods for securing accountability was a function of the growth and growing complexity of institutional life more generally in this period. The point remains though.

Were there consequences for formal or self-conscious thought about accountability because of altered practices of it? An increased focus on officers’ accountability did sometimes enable a more developed conversation about institutional equity. Jean Dunbabin has drawn attention to the greater interest in institutions amongst thinkers such as Ptolemy of Lucca (Tolomeo Fiadoni) in and around 1282 following the Sicilian Vespers. She has suggested that ‘the traumatic events of [Charles of Anjou’s] reign overcame the powerful intellectual blockage that had restricted political discussion largely to the motivation of princes, and as a consequence the floodgates opened, investigation began into the control of royal administrators, into just limits of taxation, and into appropriate definitions of treason’.[3] Political crisis, prompting practical measures or reforms, did not however invariably lead to self-conscious reflection on underlying problems. In the Regno it might. In England, as noted, there seems a curious dearth of thirteenth-century political thought on sheriffs. A text as interesting as the Mirror of Justices comes late in the century.[4] Lesser English seigneurial officials are rich in both practice and theory. (Specific reasons for this difference were offered earlier.[5]) By contrast in France, lacking crises such as ‘1215’ or ‘1258’, one can nevertheless point to rich discussions of officials’ capacity for excessus as in Guibert of Tournai’s Eruditio regum et principum, or extended considerations such as those of Philippe de Beaumanoir.[6] (Reasons for this difference between France and England were offered above.[7]) As for ecclesiastical accountability, because the method of canonical legal regulation went alongside a tradition of commenting on those texts, one does find thought engaging with practice in that field. As was argued in Chapter 1, the practices analysed previously should anyway be seen as applied political thinking on their own terms. But on the subject of mediocres officials’ accountability, sophisticated political thinking only sometimes produced sophisticated political thought. The latter is only a partial index of the former. When it did, however, the cause and effect seem largely to be this way round: ideas followed from practical needs.

One unintended consequence arguably flowed from lesser mediocres to some greater rectores. The period discussed here was also one in which the highest rulers came under increased scrutiny or criticism in some cases leading to deposition or removal. It is tempting to interrelate that grander political narrative to the intensification of mediocres officials’ accountability as discussed here. Sancho II, Frederick II, Henry III, Alfonso X, Adolf of Nassau, Boniface VIII, John XXII, Edward II: all may be cited as rulers held to account somehow and found wanting in one forum or another. One can find, though, a sufficient number of earlier rulers being deposed, assaulted, or otherwise ‘held to account’—e.g. Leo III (d. 816), Henry IV of Germany (1050—1106), Gregory VII (c. 1025—85), even Stephen of England (c.1096—1154) or Alexander III (1100—81)—to disprove any argument that such forms of accountability as discussed here were a prerequisite for rectores being held ‘accountable’ in some way. What is true is that the language of office’s growing sophistication was used within debates on the relative standing of the highest offices. Dante did so in discussing a vicar’s standing (and by extension of the pope’s); the relative standing of pope and emperor; and the distinct derivations of each office’s power.[8] Thomas of Lancaster, in setting himself up against Edward II in 1321, likewise drew on official ideas of stewardship in promoting the Steward of England’s office. (Whether others were convinced is another matter.[9]) So too did the wardens or guardians (custodes) of Scotland during the interregnum following Alexander Ill’s death in 1286.[10] The development of a strictly regal accountability in England seems mainly a parliamentary story, not one of transposing the devices developed here to the ‘office’ of kings.[11] A better case can be made for popes as prelates. The liability of Boniface VIII or John XXII to allegations of heresy (or more) may be more reasonably seen as a consequence of the technique described here in relation to other prelates. More generally still, the language of office, and the accountability it enabled and could entail, became, through the mechanisms discussed above, a potent means of contesting political control.

  • [1] Maddicott, Origins of the English Parliament, 141, 147, 154, ch. 7 passim; note also his stress(e.g. 152, 157) on the contingent effects of the specific reigns and personalities of Richard, John, andHenry III within the wider European pattern.
  • [2] See also Scales, ‘Cambridgeshire Ragman Rolls’, 578; Helen M. Cam, Studies in the HundredRolls: Some Aspects of Thirteenth-Century Administration, Oxford Studies in Social and Legal History 6(Oxford, 1921),190; T. N. Bisson, Tormented Voices: Power, Crisis and Humanity in Rural Catalonia,1140—1200 (Cambridge Mass., 1998),passim.
  • [3] Dunbabin, ‘Charles I of Anjou and the Development of Medieval Political Ideas’, 111.
  • [4] 107 See the discussion in Frederique Lachaud, Ethique du pouvoir au Moyen Age: LOffice dans laculture politique (Angleterre, vers 1150—vers 1330), Bibliotheque d’histoire medievale 3 (Paris, 2010), 635-62.
  • [5] See pp. 60-82.
  • [6] Guibert de Tournai, Eruditio regum et principum, esp. the second letter and Jacques Le Goff,Saint Louis (Paris, 1996), 407-17; Coutumes de Beauvaisis, i. cap. 1 §16—42.
  • [7] See pp. 121-34.
  • [8] Dante, Monarchia, ed. Prue Shaw (Cambridge, 1995), §§3.6—7, 3.8—9, 3.12. More widelyEdward Peters, The Shadow King: Rex Inutilis in Medieval Law and Literature, 751—1327 (New Haven,Conn., 1970).
  • [9] ‘Hic annotatur quis sit senescallus Anglie et quid ejus officium’, BL Cotton MS VespasianB. VII, fos. 104v-105v; Cotton MS Nero C. I, fos. 4v—5v; L. W. Vernon Harcourt, His Grace theSteward and Trial of Peers (London, 1907), 164—7. See J. R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster, 1307—1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II (Oxford, 1970), 241—3; 289—92 (on the place of the Stewardof England in the Modus tenendi parliamentum); Michael Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 224—6;Lachaud, Ethique du pouvoir, 574—7.
  • [10] 113 See G. W. S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, 4th edn.(Edinburgh, 2005), 20—4 and ch. 6.
  • [11] 114 See Maddicott, Origins of the English Parliament.
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